A day after the UK posted a record 55,892 new infections and another 964 coronavirus-related deaths, concerns are mounting about the impact on the overburdened National Health Service. The field hospitals that were built in the early days of the pandemic, but were subsequently suspended, are being reactivated.
The head of England’s Royal College of Nursing, Mike Adams, told Sky News that the UK was in the “eye of the storm” and that it was “infuriating” to see people not following social distancing guidance or wearing masks. .
A prominent doctor also warned of burnout among healthcare workers on the front lines of the outbreak in hospitals, while urging people to follow the rules.
“I am concerned,” Adrian Boyle, vice president of the Royal College of Emergency Medicine, told the BBC. “We are very much in the battle positions.”
New infections have more than doubled in recent weeks after a new variant said to be around 70 percent more contagious was discovered to be behind a large increase in cases in London and south-east England. .
Given the delays between new cases and hospitalizations and subsequently deaths, there is great concern about the trajectory of the pandemic over the next month or two in a country that has the second highest number of virus-related deaths in Europe. with almost 74,000.
As a result of the surge, which has spread across the country and seen lockdown restrictions tighten, the strategy around launching vaccines has been changed so that more people take an initial hit as soon as possible, with a second scheduled delayed. .
In a joint statement Thursday, the medical directors of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland said the first dose of the vaccine offers “substantial” protection.
Currently, two vaccines have been approved for use in the UK.
Just under 1 million people have received the first dose of the vaccine developed by the American pharmaceutical company Pfizer and the German biotechnology company BioNTech, and a small minority also received the second dose as planned after 21 days.
Along with approval earlier this week of the vaccine developed by the University of Oxford and British pharmaceutical firm AstraZeneca, a new dosing regimen was outlined, aimed at providing faster implementation. This means that the second dose of both vaccines will be within 12 weeks of the first.
All four medical officers said they were “confident” that the first dose of both vaccines would provide “substantial” protection.
“In the short term, the further increase in vaccine efficacy from the second dose is likely to be modest; the vast majority of initial protection against clinical disease is after the first dose of the vaccine,” they said.
The new plan has faced widespread criticism, with the UK’s top doctors union warning that delaying the second dose causes huge problems for thousands of partially vaccinated elderly and vulnerable people.
“It is blatantly and patently unfair for tens of thousands of our highest risk patients to now attempt to reschedule their appointments,” said Richard Vautrey of the British Medical Association.